Venture investing in Baltimore-area’s biotechs jump 16 percent

Investors are opening their wallets once again to biotech companies, after shying away from the risky ventures amid a recession.

Private biotech companies drew $888 million during the second quarter, a 54 percent increase over last year, according to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association. Medical device firms attracted $628 million in investment from April to June, a 38 percent increase compared with the same period in 2008.

In Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia, venture capital firms invested $14 million in biotech companies, a 16 percent increase compared with last year.

The uptick is a sharp turnaround compared with the first quarter, when investment in biotech firms fell 46 percent to $577 million and investments in medical device companies fell 27 percent to $412 million. That was the lowest funding level in 12 years.

“The money is starting to loosen up,” said Richard Zakour, executive director of industry advocacy group MdBio. “We’re being a little optimistic.”

Among the local companies to attract venture funding are:

• Arginetix Inc., which is developing treatments for hypertension and other conditions, raised nearly $11 million this month. The Lutherville company’s investors include Philadelphia’s Quaker BioVentures and MedImmune Ventures, a subsidiary of the AstraZeneca Group.

• Glen Burnie company Sleep Solutions Inc., which raised $20 million that it will use to develop treatments for sleeping disorders.

• Baltimore’s BioMarker Strategies, led by CEO Kären Olson, recently raised $1.7 million to create a prototype of a diagnostic device to test drugs for breast, lung and pancreatic cancer.

• Gliknik, also of Baltimore, which raised $1.1 million that it will use to develop new drugs to treat autoimmune diseases and cancer.

Josh Sandberg

Josh Sandberg is the President of Ortho Spine Partners and Partner for The De Angelis Group. He also serves as Co-Founder and Editor of OrthoSpineNews.

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